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Posts tagged ‘David Figurski – PhD’

Long COVID . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Serious Long-term Effect of Some COVID-19 Infections

Long COVID – a Serious Long-term Effect of Some COVID-19 Infections


by


Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 <severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus #2> and the disease it causes as COVID-19 <coronavirus infectious disease of 2019>.  Because the majority of people, including most of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19” or “COVID,” to avoid confusion, I use “COVID-19” as the name of the virus.)

David Figurski

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

Finally – the news I’ve been waiting for!

Bottom line: The news is good … if you’re vaccinated.

Dr. Daniel Griffin, a Columbia University infectious disease physician, has said that long COVID is a public health crisis.  Several million people worldwide are living with the mysterious, often disabling, ailments of long COVID.

What is long COVID?

Everybody knows about the acute phase of COVID-19 infection. Some infections are serious and require hospitalization – and maybe intensive care. However, infected people and even the survivors of hospitalization seem to fully recover. They feel fine and test negative for the virus.coronavirus_PNG38

But weeks or months later, people who appear to have recovered from a COVID-19 infection may experience any one or several symptoms, which include fatigue, severe headaches, brain fog, anxiety, depression, muscle pain, cough, fever, cognitive impairment, joint pain, chest pain, shortness of breath, vertigo or loss of balance, memory issues, rash, heart palpitations, and sleep issues.

What’s worse – the symptoms can persist. No one knows when the symptoms will end. Some long COVID patients worry that their symptoms will be lifelong. Society needs to be ready for many more disabled people.

Scientists and doctors don’t know the cause.

Particularly worrisome is the fact that even asymptomatic and mild infections can lead to long COVID. Since vaccination still permits asymptomatic and mild infections but prevents the severe infections that require hospitalization, I have been concerned that long COVID can still occur with vaccination. Now it’s clear that vaccination prevents long COVID too.

Because long COVID occurs weeks or months after a COVID-19 infection, it took a while for the data on vaccination and long COVID to come out.

apps.31154.13510798883188545.eeff598f-9fb6-4eae-b36b-53296e4adb2eA recent paper submitted by an Israeli group showed there is a significant reduction (an appropriately conservative conclusion for data that showed 0 cases of long COVID) if a person was vaccinated before getting infected.  In contrast, with no vaccination, about half of hospitalized COVID-19 patients will get long COVID. Vaccination after getting COVID-19 helps: Vaccination within 30 days of COVID-19 infection helps reduce the incidence of long COVID significantly. Getting vaccinated 30-60 days after COVID-19 infection helped, but not as much as within 30 days. Getting vaccinated after 90 days post COVID-19 infection does not help.

You can listen to Dr. Griffin talk about long COVID in two short segments – minutes 38:25-41:30 and 47:25-50:15 – of his clinical update in the video podcast (TWiV #856 – This Week in Virology by Columbia virologist Dr. Racaniello.

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COVID-19: Long COVID and Children

Long COVID and Children
by
Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski
presented by
Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19.  Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion, I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus.)

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

It has been accepted that the infection of teens and children with COVID-19 rarely results in significant symptoms, but it’s worrisome that they may be as susceptible as anyone else to a recently identified effect of COVID-19 – a syndrome called “long COVID.”

Children with the virus often show no signs of infection, and sometimes they (and their parents) are not even aware that they have been infected.  Contrast that with the experiences of the very old.  Infection of the elderly often leads to severe disease and can result in death.  Nobody has yet been able to explain how age results in the radical difference in sensitivity to the effects of the virus.

Doctors and scientists are also unable to explain the onset of the delayed symptoms of long COVID.  In one study, 10-13% of children who knew they were infected thought they had recovered.  They tested negative for the virus, and most of their symptoms were gone. In some cases, there were several weeks of good health. But weeks or months later, they showed new symptoms. (Adult symptoms include fatigue; fever; cough; sore throat; chest pain; shortness of breath; neurocognitive problems with memory, concentration, processing, or finding words; diarrhea; headaches; insomnia; dizziness; heart palpitations; abdominal cramps, rashes; tinnitus; joint pain; depression; and anxiety.) The symptoms may last weeks or months, and some people still have symptoms after several months.

Particularly worrisome is the fact that mild or asymptomatic acute infections can still lead to long COVID.  This means that children, who were thought to be unbothered by infection, are, in fact, sensitive to long COVID.

I haven’t seen the data, but I suspect that the 10-13% number came from people who either had an obvious symptom or tested positive.  If we include the number of asymptomatic infections, the percentage of infected children who get long COVID will likely go down significantly.  If you and your children are using masks and social-distancing, then you’re already at a low risk of even getting infected.

The bottom line is that this virus still shows surprises. It’s definitely too early to relax.

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Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

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COVID-19: The President’s Infection (Part 4 of 4)

COVID-19: The President’s Infection (Part 4 of 4)

by

Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19. Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in this post.)

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

The President returned to the White House Monday evening. Was that too soon? Was the President at risk? Was he contagious?

The President’s doctors at Walter Reed were comfortable with his leaving the hospital because the White House has its own doctors and medical facility. Remdesivir is given IV for five days. Putting in an IV line would not be a problem at the White House. If the President needed supplemental oxygen, a chest X-ray, antibiotics, etc., they are readily available. The doctors at the White House can also do the daily blood tests needed to monitor the state of the President’s immune system and his propensity for clotting. Dexamethasone is usually prescribed for ten days, but an oral form is available.

Two important questions loomed. Is the President immune? And, is the President contagious?

The conferral of immunity by COVID-19 infection is a major question yet to be answered. If there is protective immunity and, if so, how long it lasts are major concerns of vaccine producers. There are now reports of people being infected with COVID-19 a second time. Immunity may depend on the severity of the initial infection and the robustness of the consequent immune response. There has been a report of mild or asymptomatic infections that do not elicit an antibody response. Are these people more vulnerable to a second infection? Alternatively, was their response so effective without antibodies that the virus could not become established and cause symptoms?

Is the President contagious? We can’t say without knowing his test results. Dr. Griffin considers a patient virus-free if that person has two negative tests on two consecutive days. Otherwise, a person is considered to be potentially contagious for 20 days. Since the doctors are permitting the President to hold rallies, I assume he is not thought to be contagious.

Dr. Griffin’s extensive experience with COVID-19 patients has allowed us to surmise what was happening with the President’s infection. The President appears to have completely recovered from his COVID-19 infection. But, several questions remain.

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Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

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COVID-19: The President’s Infection (Part 1 of 4)

COVID-19: The President’s Infection (Part 1 of 4)

by

Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19. Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in this post.)

This is an unusually long post, so I’ve divided it into four parts. It is easy to read, even though it’s filled with much information.

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

The complete story of the President’s COVID-19 infection and treatment is not known by the public. Virologist, Dr. Vincent Racaniello, interviewed Dr. Daniel Griffin, a New York City physician who has been treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic. Vincent has been releasing podcasts about COVID-19 every couple of days. His TWiV podcast (This Week in Virology) of October 5, 2020, is a special podcast in which he and Dr. Griffin have a conversation about COVID-19 infection and treatments, as they relate to the President’s infection.

Vincent Racaniello is a professor and virologist and my former colleague in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Columbia University. His guest, Daniel Griffin, is a physician in the Infectious Disease Department of Columbia. Because Dr. Griffin has both an M.D. and a Ph.D., he is a physician-scientist and so has an additional appointment as Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics. Dr. Griffin is also the Chief of the Division of Infectious Disease for ProHEALTH Care Associates. ProHEALTH Care is the largest physician-owned multi-specialty practice in the nation. He is also on the COVID-19 response team for the tri-state area.

Dr. Griffin has applied his clinical and molecular knowledge of COVID-19 to the few details we know about President Trump’s infection. In doing so, we now have a better idea of the President’s case. I urge you to listen to the complete 34-minute TWiV podcast of October 5th. I have defined some terms and explained some concepts that may be unfamiliar to you.

President Trump announced at 1:00 am on Friday, October 2, 2020, that he and the First Lady tested positive for COVID-19. Later that day, the President was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He returned to the White House at 6:30 pm the next Monday. Many of the details of the infection and the President’s condition have remained unknown.

When the President’s COVID-19 infection began is unclear. The President first reported a positive test in the early morning of October 2nd. The President said he is not tested for COVID-19 every day, and the White House will not say when the President’s last negative test occurred. In his Town Hall on October 15th, the President said he didn’t know for sure that he had taken a test before the debate three days before he was admitted.

(To Be Continued)

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Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale

COVID-19 — It’s Everywhere . . . Breakthrough in Basic Research May Defeat COVID-19

Breakthrough in Basic Research May Defeat COVID-19

by

Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19. Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refers to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in these posts.)

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

 

Exciting results indicate that a novel idea might bring COVID-19 under control.  The new technology has been shown to work at the lab bench.  Now scientists are doing animal studies and, later, human studies.

Scientists at Boston University (BU) and the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) have made coated nanoparticles that are covered with pieces of lung cell membrane. (About 1000 tiny particles, or “nanoparticles,” can line up in the space equal to the width of a human hair.) The coated nanoparticles mimic the lung cells that normally bind the virus and allow an infection to start.  But, when the virus tries to infect a coated nanoparticle, the virus dies.  Essentially, the coated nanoparticle is a lethal decoy.

Research in the lab indicates that the new technology might be able to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, if the technology works in humans, coated nanoparticles will likely be important for inactivating other viruses and for dealing with future pandemics.

Specific nanoparticles can be made to mimic any cell that any virus infects.  So, coated nanoparticles can be made that are specific for any virus (for example, for influenza virus or for Ebola virus).  Also, once the cell normally infected by a previously unknown virus to start an infection has been identified (as it was for COVID-19), the relevant coated nanoparticles can be made. So, a novel virus can be inactivated even though little is known about the molecular details of its biology.

Scientists were surprised to learn that the coated nanoparticles for COVID-19 bind the SARS-2 coronavirus even better than the lung cells normally infected by the virus.  So, this approach for COVID-19 is likely be very efficient.

In COVID-19 infections, sometimes the immune response is too active and causes severe disease or death.  The dexamethasone breakthrough I wrote about earlier works by dampening the immune response.  The scientists surprisingly found that coating another batch of nanoparticles with membrane pieces from cells of the immune system also dampened the immune response.

The scientists envision a protective coated nanoparticle mixture for COVID-19 that has two types of coated nanoparticles (one that mimics the lung cells that are infected and another that dampens the immune response). The mixture would be simply administered as a nasal spray.

 

Stay Safe and Healthy!

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COVID-19 — It’s Everywhere . . . Drug Breakthrough Significantly Prevents COVID-19 Deaths

Drug Breakthrough Significantly Prevents COVID-19 Deaths

by

Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19. Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in these posts.)

COVID-19

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

Research at the University of Oxford in England showed for the first time that a drug prevented a major fraction of deaths in severely sick patients with COVID-19.

Dexamethasone was found in a large clinical trial to cause a significant reduction in deaths. It can be prescribed as pills, and it is a common, readily available, and relatively inexpensive drug

A major problem after infection by COVID-19 is that the immune response of some individuals is too aggressive (often causing what’s called a “cytokine storm”) and can lead to death. Because dexamethasone is a steroid that dampens the immune response, the prediction was that it might help to prevent deaths by COVID-19.

The research showed that it does.

There are about 3 deaths for every 8 patients on ventilators.  Dexamethasone treatment reduced those deaths by one-third.  So, 1 death would be prevented for every 8 patients on ventilators.  About 5 deaths occur in every 25 patients on oxygen only. Dexamethasone treatment reduced those deaths by one-fifth, or about 1 less death for every 25 patients on oxygen only. Dexamethasone treatment had no effect on patients not on ventilators or receiving oxygen only.

Given that a major fraction of the over 118,000 deaths in the US so far (at 6:00 pm ET on June 18, 2020) were on ventilators or oxygen only, dexamethasone treatment is predicted to prevent many deaths.

The UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said: “This is a ground-breaking development in our fight against the disease, and the speed at which researchers have progressed finding an effective treatment is truly remarkable.”

 

Stay Safe and Healthy!

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COVID-19 — It’s Everywhere . . . Progress in Controlling COVID-19

Progress in Controlling COVID-19

by

Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19. Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in these posts.)

COVID-19

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

 

 

I want to tell you about an amazing podcast, TWiV (This Week in Virology), created and hosted by Dr. Vincent Racaniello, a colleague of mine at Columbia University.

Vincent’s a virologist who has done cutting edge research on the molecular biology of influenza virus, poliovirus, and rhinoviruses (which cause the common cold). His podcasts feature several PhDs in microbiology (virologists, an immunologist, a parasitologist, and a science reporter who earned his PhD with Vincent) discussing the latest research and advances in viruses.

Vincent has been self-quarantining at home. Consequently, since March 13th, he has made more than 30 podcasts, nearly all concerning COVID-19, potential therapies and vaccines, and pandemics. His guests have been infectious disease scientists doing research or physicians in the trenches learning about the clinical manifestations of the virus and how to treat their patients.

Dr. Vincent Racaniello – Columbia University Virologist

Vincent’s podcasts are made for non-scientists to understand, but they are 1-2 hours long. Probably none of you has the time to listen that long. Therefore, I’m trying to listen to them so I can point you to episodes and minutes you may want to hear.

Podcast #622, released June 2, featured Dr. Emmie de Wit of the Rocky Mountain Labs in Montana. She’s a virologist doing drug and vaccine research in monkeys. Because Rocky Mountain Labs is one of the few places in the country with a high-safety-level facility, Dr. de Wit has worked with several dangerous viruses: SARS-1, MERS, pandemic influenza strains, and Ebola. Now she’s working with SARS-2.

I’ve boiled down Episode #622 to four segments totaling ~16 minutes.

  1. 26:05-26:35 – The spike protein of the virus coat initiates infection of a cell by attaching to the ACE2 protein (angiotensin converting enzyme 2) on the cell’s surface. Here Emmie tells how it took only days to identify ACE2 and confirm viral binding. Rich Condit, a virologist, was astonished by the speed. ACE2-binding by spike is a potential drug target.

 

  1. 37:15-39:44 – The PCR test (polymerase chain reaction), simple enough to be done on a large scale, detects the 30,000-nucleotide (or base) RNA chromosome of the virus. But, PCR is so sensitive that it can detect degradation fragments of the RNA, even though the person is no longer contagious. The only way to tell for sure is to detect viable virus in cell culture. This is hard to do and is only done in virology research labs. As a result, a person is considered infected and contagious if the PCR test is positive.

  1. 43:35-54:05 Remdesivir, an antiviral drug, is a nucleotide-analog that blocks the copying of the RNA chromosome to make more virus. Emmie showed that giving remdesivir to monkeys early (at 12-hours post infection) was very effective. But, humans don’t show symptoms for days, and, because remdesivir must be administered intravenously, patients are only given remdesivir if they are hospitalized. This is very late, and still there is a modest effect. Rich Condit talks about the possibility of producing an oral form of the drug. Then remdesivir could be taken earlier – maybe even at home – and might be very effective in humans.

 

  1. 58:25-60:40 This segment concerns a vaccine. (I’ll write more on this topic later, but you should know that there are three types of promising technologies: the viral protein-based, the viral gene-based, and the virus vector-based, in which a harmless virus carries a gene from a disease-producing virus for a protein that’s needed to infect cells.)2ff087415a5009984739aa8fde5d5d4a

Emmie tested a harmless chimpanzee adenovirus that was engineered to carry the COVID-19 spike gene. This adenovirus produces the coronavirus spike protein, needed for COVID-19 to infect cells. So, this harmless adenovirus should cause us to make antibodies that will block infection by COVID-19.

In Emmie’s experiment in monkeys, the vaccine worked so well that it allowed clinical trials to proceed in humans.

Stay Safe and Healthy!

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COVID-19 — It’s Everywhere . . . Vaccine is Possible

COVID-19 . . . Evidence that a Vaccine is Possible

by

Columbia University Professor Emeritus, Dr. David Figurski

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

(Disclaimer: The World Health Organization <WHO> has officially named the new coronavirus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease it causes as COVID-19.  Because the majority of people, including much of the press, commonly refer to the virus as “COVID-19,” to avoid confusion, I use COVID-19 as the name of the virus in these posts.)

COVID-19

The 100+ labs trying to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 were delighted with a study showing that COVID-19 stimulates a strong antibody response in humans. Scientists from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) demonstrated that a vaccine for COVID-19 is definitely possible.

The scientists studied blood from mildly sick individuals who recovered. They found a high level of antibodies to the spike protein, used by COVID-19 to infect.

The strong antibody response suggests that immunity will occur in humans and will last a while, but no one knows for how long – weeks? months? years?

The scientists were surprised by another result. For you also to understand it, I have to give you some background. (Sorry!)

There are seven coronaviruses that infect humans.

Four are common and cause mild, cold-like symptoms.  We’ve all probably had one or more of these.

Three coronaviruses (SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2 <which causes COVID-19>, and MERS- CoV) cause serious human disease and some fatalities.

Blood taken before COVID-19 even existed in humans nevertheless showed the presence of antibodies that reacted with COVID-19.  Infection with one of the mild coronaviruses may have stimulated the body’s production of some antibodies that cross-react with COVID-19.

Some seemingly healthy individuals have died from COVID-19. In contrast, some people not predicted to do well had mild disease or were asymptomatic. Doctors are perplexed by their inability to predict who will recover.

David H. Figurski, Ph.D & Survivor of Brain Injury

One possibility is that the amount of cross-reactive antibodies arising from previous infection with one or more of the mild coronaviruses may determine how well a COVID-19-infected person will do.

 

Stay Safe and Healthy!

 

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Sneak Peeks for Prisoners

My book, Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, will be released to the public on November 1, 2018 by WriteLife Publishing of Boutique of Quality Books Publishing Company.  Here are pre-order links for Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

 

Excerpt 3

Chapter 11

Hearths

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

figurski-1

David Figurski, PhD – a few months before brain injury

… The waiting room was huge. There were couches in clusters—some small, some large, each with a table in the middle. The groupings reminded me of The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel that I read many years ago. Auel wrote about prehistoric man, the Clan people. She told how each family gathered around its hearth at night. The hearth was a private place. It was illustration-of-a-caveman-family-dancing-around-a-bonfire_158190224-1considered impolite to peer into someone else’s hearth. That’s the way it felt in the waiting room too …

 

 

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Sneak Peeks for Prisoners

My book, Prisoners without Bars: A Caregiver’s Tale, will be released to the public on November 1, 2018 by WriteLife Publishing of Boutique of Quality Books Publishing Company. Here are pre-order links for Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

 

Excerpt 2

Chapter 22

I Love You

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

figurski-1

David Figurski, PhD – a few months before brain injury

 

… When the videofluoroscopy was complete and David was settled into his wheelchair chair-clipart-handicap-2for the ride back to his room, he licked his lips and said, “Mmm, that was good!” He still had traces of the barium k3636498stuck to his lips. Meghan, Dave, and I burst into laughter. Meghan said she had never heard anyone describe the barium-laced foods as tasty. David laughed too. I guess when you haven’t eaten real food for a while, anything tasted good …

 

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